USAID’s Strategic Religious Engagement Policy

Building bridges with religious communities and faith-based organizations (FBOs) expands USAID’s opportunities to create effective, sustainable development solutions and deliver effective humanitarian assistance to address the world’s greatest challenges.

Since its founding, USAID has partnered with and alongside faith-based and community organizations to advance shared development and humanitarian objectives. Building Bridges in Development: USAID’s Strategic Religious Engagement Policy will increase the impact and sustainability of development and humanitarian assistance programs through improved engagement with religious communities and faith-based organizations as strategic development partners.


building bridges Strategic Religious Engagement Policy Policy

A new video from USAID celebrates the Strategic Religious Engagement Policy and highlights the principles and framework guiding USAID’s approach to faith-based partnerships.

Policy Goals

  1. Improve collaboration between USAID and religious communities and FBOs to advance shared priorities and maximize sustainable development and humanitarian assistance outcomes. 
  2. Strengthen the capacity of USAID’s workforce to conduct Strategic Religious Engagement (SRE) with respect and inclusivity, in coordination with the USG interagency and our partner community, and in compliance with legal requirements.  
  3. Increase the integration of SRE as an evidence-based, principled approach to addressing development and humanitarian challenges across sectors and in countries where USAID has a development presence.

Policy Principles

USAID’s Strategic Religious Engagement (SRE) Policy is guided by a set of seven principles:

USAID’s Strategic Religious Engagement (SRE) Policy is guided by a set of seven principles: BRIDGES

Belonging - We will engage with a posture of inclusion, in ways that enhance diversity and promote pluralism.

Respect - We will respect the autonomy and unique identity of individuals and groups with whom we engage.

Integrity - We will seek to build relationships formed with integrity, engaging ethically and in a manner consistent with U.S. constitutional guarantees.

Dignity - We will uphold the worth of all people in all we do.

Growth - We will approach communities humbly and eager to learn, incorporating evidence-based practices and lessons learned in our engagements.

Equity - We are committed to enhancing inclusion and equity to benefit the communities we serve.

Sustainability - We will aim to build long-term, enduring partnerships with religious communities.

A Framework for Engagement

The policy offers a four-step operational framework for how USAID staff can work and engage directly with religious communities and faith-based organizations to drive development progress worldwide.

Survey the Landscape icon

Survey the Landscape

Conduct outreach and obtain contextual awareness to inform country and regional strategic planning, incorporating SRE.

Set the Foundation icon

Set the Foundation

Equip USAID workforce with requisite knowledge and skills to partner confidently with religious communities and faith-based organizations.

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Build Together

Establish relationships that are built to last by inviting religious actors into stakeholder consultations, identifying shared goals with them, and integrating engagement opportunities across the Program Cycle.

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Maintain and Repair

Seek regular feedback to maintain our strategic partnerships or adjust interventions as needed to ensure we are achieving development progress.

On September 12, 2023, USAID released Building Bridges in Development: USAID's Strategic Religious Engagement Policy at a launch event co-hosted with the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Frequently Asked Questions

Strategic Religious Engagement (SRE) is the process of collaborating with religious communities and/or partnering with faith-based organizations to advance shared development goals. It encompasses collaboration to establish new or sustain ongoing development initiatives and can take multiple forms. SRE is an adaptive approach to development and humanitarian assistance that can apply to any sector or region depending on the local context, and it is most effective when it is built on partnerships that have been cultivated over time.

SRE supports USAID’s localization efforts in two critical ways. First, as part of civil society engagement, it can help to engage local actors as co-designers and critical partners of USAID programming. Second, SRE can support USAID’s strategy for diversifying its partner base by encouraging partnerships with new and underutilized organizations with innovative ideas, especially locally-established non-profit organizations as well as national and international nonprofits.

In many societies around the world, religion is an important force in public life,  influencing  political discourse, social attitudes, institutions, and policy outcomes — with both positive and negative impacts. U.S. foreign policy makers, development professionals and implementers face these dynamics in their global work.

Faith-based and community organizations, both local and international, serve populations in some of the most vulnerable contexts in the world. These organizations are often the first in and the last to leave in times of crisis, if not already permanently embedded in communities coping with development and humanitarian challenges. As a result, faith-based organizations often hold positions of special trust and provide essential social support to communities in every region of the world.

In 2013 the U.S. Government adopted the framework of the U.S. National Strategy on Religious Leader and Faith Community Engagement, which encourages U.S. diplomats and development professionals to engage and deepen relationships with religious leaders and faith communities as they carry out their foreign policy responsibilities. Building on this strategy and prior legislation,  the U.S. Government has engaged with religious actors around the world to advance mutual development and humanitarian objectives, a priority again underscored in the 2020 Presidential Executive Order on Advancing International Religious Freedom.

Strategic Religious Engagement (SRE) is conducted in full compliance with and respect for the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the U.S. Constitution and USAID’s Rule on Participation of Religious Organizations in USAID Programs (22 CFR 205.1).


USAID is committed to partnering with and alongside faith-based organizations and religious communities to advance shared development and humanitarian goals worldwide. The Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships reaffirms this commitment and works to build bridges between USAID and faith-based organizations and religious communities. Learn more about the office and what we do here. Subscribe to our newsletter by filling out this form.